McKinnie Suspension Would End Streak

If left tackle Bryant McKinnie is suspended, it would be the end to a streak he holds over all other linemen on the team.

The Vikings move from their offseason conditioning program to the organized team activities (OTAs) portion of their offseason work this week, meaning they will actually start practicing as a (mostly) full team for the first time in 2008. During the week, the media will get a quick view at which players have returned from surgery and which players still are limited, but one player's status for the start of the 2008 season likely will still be unresolved after this week.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was charged with four crimes, including felony assault, for his alleged role in a fight outside of Miami's Club Space nightclub in February. However, his attorney, Larry Kerr, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week that McKinnie's trial, scheduled for June 2, could be moved back at a pretrial hearing Tuesday.

At some point after McKinnie's trial, the NFL is expected to review the details of McKinnie's case and decide if he will be suspended. If he is, it not only would hurt the Vikings' talent on the offensive line during his layoff, it would also end the longest streak among current Vikings linemen.

McKinnie has played in 88 straight games and started 87 consecutive games, ever since he ended a contract holdout in his rookie season during the Red McCombs era of ownership. Both of those marks are the longest among active Vikings.

It would also upset the consistency the offensive line developed during the second half of the 2007 season. Ever since Week 5 of last season, the team had the same five starters on the offensive line – McKinnie at left tackle, Steve Hutchinson at left guard, Matt Birk at center, Anthony Herrera at right guard and Ryan Cook at right tackle. Herrera moved into a starting role that week in place of Artis Hicks at right guard, and the other four offensive linemen started every game of the season at their respective positions.

If McKinnie does receive a suspension, the exact number of games is unknown, as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell holds the latitude to make those decisions under the Player Conduct Policy in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In Brainerd last week for a community appearance, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was asked on KFAN radio about McKinnie's potential suspension and downplayed the impact it would have on the team.

"We're not concerned about it because our team is deep," Wilf said. "We're much deeper than before and I think whatever might come down, we're prepared to have players that can step in and fill any void that we might have. I think that's a sign of a team that's growing and becoming better is to have more depth."

If McKinnie would have to miss a few games to begin the 2008 season, Artis Hicks would be a likely candidate to fill in for McKinnie. Hicks, who played mostly at guard during his 49 starts in the NFL, started four games at left tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles during his first three seasons in the league before being traded to the Vikings in 2006.

The Vikings do have other options if McKinnie is suspended to start the season. Marcus Johnson started 10 games in 2006 at right tackle and started four games apiece at right guard and right tackle in 2005 before losing his starting job both seasons. Chase Johnson, who signed as an undrafted rookie last year but spent the entire season on the 53-man roster, might also be a possibility. The only other tackles listed on the Vikings' current roster are Ryan Cook, who is the starter at right tackle, and Drew Radovich, who signed as an undrafted free agent in April.

The only games McKinnie has missed during his career came in his rookie season, when he held out for eight games in 2002 before playing in the ninth game of that season and then starting every game since at left tackle.

In September 2006, McKinnie signed a seven-year contract extension that could be worth about $50 million with more than $18 million in guarantees.

McKinnie was part of an offensive line that led the way for the Vikings' league-leading rushing attack, which set franchise records with 2,634 yards and 5.33 yards per carry in 2007.

The consistency in starters on the offensive line the last 12 games of the 2007 season was a far cry from the six different starting combinations they experienced in 2005. But no matter the contingency plan if McKinnie is suspended, it will end his starting streak and force at least a temporary shuffling of the linemen.


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